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International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

August 7, 2009

By Jose Zarate

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed August 9 as the International Day of  the World’s Indigenous People. The goal of the first decade was to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by Indigenous people in such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health. This year the United Nations will observe this day on August 10 under the theme of Indigenous peoples and HIV and AIDS. Celebration of this day provides an opportunity to join with others in recognizing Indigenous peoples’ efforts to maintain their distinctive cultures, socio-political systems and identities. It is also an appropriate moment for The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund to restate its commitment to support Indigenous partners in their efforts to develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in dignity and in accordance with their needs and interests. On this day we reiterate our recognition, respect and support for the rights of Indigenous peoples pertaining to the protection and conservation of their natural and cultural resources and to the enjoyment of fundamental dignity and wellbeing. 
Despite their rich cultures and identities, the economic, social and human indicators of quality of life and development are consistently lower among Indigenous people than other Canadians. PWRDF supports a variety of Indigenous initiatives that promote women’s and youth empowerment, Indigenous languages and cultural revitalization, the promotion and preservation of traditional knowledge, and health and wellness.
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People 2009 is the right occasion to call on the Federal Government to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 13, 2007 after more than two decades of development and deliberation.   For Indigenous peoples around the world, this was a historic occasion. In addition to the right to self-determination, the declaration recognizes that Indigenous peoples have the right to a nationality, the right to traditional lands, the right to Indigenous languages and cultures and the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation. The Declaration provides hope for Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world by ensuring that states can be held accountable to an internationally accepted standard of conduct and provides a sound basis to improve the relationship between Indigenous peoples and governments in Canada. Although a resolution was passed by the Canadian Parliament on April 8, 2008 to endorse the Declaration, the Federal Government has so far refused to reverse their opinion. The Federal Government of Canada must take steps to fully adopt the United Nations Declaration in legislation.
Since 1959 PWRDF has been supporting the rights of Indigenous peoples and working in partnership with them on initiatives aimed at preserving cultural relevance through sustainable strategies and programs. In its advocacy work through KAIROS, PWRDF worked on the statement commemorating the 20th anniversary of “A New Covenant” that was introduced at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada in June 2007.  The statement acknowledges the churches’ role in the oppression and colonization of Indigenous peoples and seeks to contribute to the process of rectifying historical injustices by advocating for genuine reconciliation and solidarity in the struggle for recognition and the guarantee of basic human rights.  PWRDF will continue working in collaboration and consultation with the KAIROS Aboriginal Rights Committee and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) on issues of Indigenous peoples’ rights, advocacy and policy discussions.
More InformationDeclaration of Indigenous Rights KAIROS Media Release September 2007 A Preliminary Response to the Draft Covenant by the Anglican Church of Canada

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